Lexington, KY – May 19, 2021 – Horse-and-rider combinations were excited to get back in the StoneLea Ring for the Kentucky Spring Classic Wednesday, May 19. Christopher Payne was first in the ring for the Green Conformation Hunter division aboard Still Water Farm LLC’s, Gratitude. The pair laid down a beautiful first round and came into the Green Hunter Incentive Stake with an eagerness that would prove to set the pace for the rest of the class, earning a high score of 87 to take the blue.
The Green Hunter Incentive Program is designed to spotlight and encourage the development of young hunter athletes. The program is open to horses competing in the Green 3’0”, 3’3”, 3’6”, and 3’9” Hunters. Over the course of the year, horses accumulate points to compete in the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships, regional championships, and stake classes across the country. Many of the top hunter athletes, including Scott Stewart, Christopher Payne, Kelley Farmer and several others, compete to win top honors at the end of the year.
Payne was first in the ring to battle for top honors in the Incentive Stake aboard Gratitude. The 7-year-old Warmblood gelding would impressed the judges with his forward pace, eager expression and beautiful form to lay down two beautiful trips in the Green Conformation Hunter division and one jaw-dropping second round for the stake class, helping them secure a strong lead with a score of 87. The dynamic duo came into the second week of horse showing at the Kentucky Horse Park with massive success from the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, where the pair tied for the Grand Hunter Champion title after taking top honors in the Green 3’6’’ Hunter division.
In addition to his first-place finish, Payne also piloted Reign, an 8-year-old gelding also owned by Still Water Farm LLC, to top honors, earning a score of 85, only two points behind his first mount Gratitude. The pair’s incredible performance early on in the Green 3’6” Hunter would help them hold a second-place lead throughout the entirety of the class. The first-year horse continued to impress the judges after the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, where Reign also earned top placings in the Green 3’6” Hunter division for his powerful jump and fluidity throughout each course.
Kelley Farmer aboard Prodigy, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Oakmont Stables LLC and David Glefke, rounded out the Green Hunter Incentive Stake class with a score of 82, only three points behind the second-place finishers Payne and Reign. The pair have had tremendous success throughout the Kentucky Horse Show, earning top honors in the $10,000 USHJA International Derby just one week prior.
In the Murphy Ring, TAKE2 Thoroughbred Hunter competitors rounded out the first day of competition at the Kentucky Spring Classic with Natassia Stallings and Purely Grateful, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Kelly Fleming-Bentz, earning top honors. TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program Inc., long-time supporters of the Kentucky Horse Shows series, once again sponsored the TAKE2 Thoroughbred Hunter division. The program promotes new careers for retired racehorses and awards $10,000 in year-end high-score awards. Qualifying horses may participate in the end-of-season $20,000 TAKE2 Thoroughbred Hunter and Jumper Finals held at the Kentucky Horse Park during the Kentucky National Horse Show, September 22-26, 2021.
Competition will continue in the StoneLea Ring Thursday, May 20, with the Green 3’6” Hunter division and the day will conclude with the Performance 3’3” Hunter division.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Christopher Payne – Green Hunter Incentive Stake winner
On Reign and Gratitude
“Gratitude and Reign are both really fun horses to ride. They are both very different. Gratitude is a lot more organized when he goes around, and Reign you kind of have to show him the direction a little bit. They are both very game horses, a lot of fun to ride and they both have a ton of scope.”
On the course:
“The course was great, it rode beautifully and it was a lot of fun. It allowed the horses to open up their canter and really showcase their step and jump.”
On upcoming plans for Gratitude and Reign:
“We will finish out tomorrow in the Green Conformation Hunters with Gratitude, and then finish up the Green 3’6” Hunters on Reign. We also plan on doing them both in the National Derby this weekend.”
On Kentucky Horse Park:
“It is great to be back for the second week. I always love showing in Kentucky; it is a beautiful facility, it is run wonderfully and the courses are always amazing.”